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Cities levy an array of taxes on visitors

Anyone who has recently traveled to a major U.S. city knows the shock of finding a hotel, car rental or restaurant bill laden with extra charges.

It’s a growing trend among cities to add bed taxes, airport concession taxes and other charges to visitors’ bills in order to fund tourism marketing campaigns, airport improvements and other projects.

Combined with sales taxes, the extra travel taxes add about $28 a day to the cost of a visitor’s lodging, car rentals and meals in the nation’s top 50 destination cities, according to a new study by the education and research arm of the National Business Travel Assn.

Some cities charge more than others.

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The cities with the highest overall tax burden on travelers in the central-city area were Chicago ($38.75 a day, on average), New York ($36.53), Boston ($36.47) and Seattle ($34.46), according to the study.

When sales taxes are excluded, Los Angeles ranked among the 10 cities with the lowest travel taxes charged in the central city areas. But a recent proposal to add a 1.5% assessment fee to hotel bills could bump L.A. off the list.

The cities in which travelers face the lowest overall tax burden are Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; and Detroit.

“Rest assured,” warned Michael W. McCormick, executive director of the travel group, “companies are taking notice of these unfair burdens when determining how and where to spend their business travel, meetings and events dollars.”

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• Travel software separates fees

With airlines adding more fees for luggage, meals and other extras, several technology and travel management firms have recently unveiled upgrades to travel-expense software to better distinguish the fees from the cost of basic airfares.

Travelocity Business, the business travel division of Travelocity, and TRX Inc., the Atlanta travel technology business, are among the companies to announce new fee-tracking programs this month.

What this means for business travelers is that your company’s travel managers can now identify the total cost of such fees, making it easier to adopt policies to accept or reject the payment of certain fees. Travel managers can also get a better picture of which airlines pile on the most fees.

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“Clearly, fees have evolved into a sizable piece of what a corporation pays for travel,” said Yannis Karmis, president of Travelocity Business. “As it becomes bigger and bigger, we try to understand a better way to manage that spending.”

• Dog deaths on airplanes

The U.S. Transportation Department doesn’t know how many dogs have traveled on commercial airlines, but it recently tallied how many have died on planes in the last five years.

The analysis showed that a surprising number of the dogs that died on commercial flights were “short-faced” dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs. Airlines are required to report pet deaths but not the total number of pets transported.

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Of the 122 dogs that have died on commercial planes since May 2005, about half were short-faced, including 25 English bulldogs, 11 pugs, six French bulldogs, two boxers and two Pekingese.

Still, the federal agency said that in general, it is safe to transport pets by plane.

Dogs with short faces may be at higher risk because such breeds are prone to respiratory problems and typically don’t breathe as efficiently as other breeds, said Kimberly Anne May, a veterinarian and spokeswoman for the Illinois-based American Veterinary Medical Assn.

Such dogs may struggle to breathe and to cool off when anxious and confined in tight, overheated spaces such as the cargo hold of an airplane, she added. “They have a tough time moving air well.”

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The veterinarian group suggests taking dogs on plane trips only if absolutely necessary and says it’s good to avoid flying with pets in the middle of the day, when temperatures are highest.

It also suggests transporting smaller pets in the plane’s cabin if possible, rather than booking them in cargo. “It’s just something to keep in mind,” May said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com


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